Bonds Trial Update: The Brothers Giambi

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Yesterday’s installment of the Barry Bonds trial didn’t provide the salacious highs of Monday’s Kimberly Bell testimony, but it made up for it with a varied menu of witnesses.  Most notably Jason and Jeremy Giambi, but let’s take this all in order, shall we?

First up was a man named Barry Sample, an expert in drug testing. Which involves … giving samples. Hmm. Maybe someone is putting us on here, because that name is too on-the-nose.  His testimony sounded legit, however. He explained why it’s so hard to use a Whizzinator and stuff like that.  For the record, he also testified that Bonds’ 2003 sample — which was part of baseball’s pilot drug testing program — came up negative for drugs at first, though a second test of the sample came back positive. Anyone feel better about the veracity of the leaked name from that famous list yet?

Next up was a man named Dale Kennedy, who is in the business of collecting urine samples from Major League Baseball players. I bet he’s great at parties. His testimony seemed pretty irrelevant. He wasn’t even cross-examined.

After Kennedy’s testimony came the hubub about whether Kimberly Bell changed her testicle testimony since 2003. I discussed this in detail yesterday. Upshot: this could be a bad thing for the prosecution.  If the jury is instructed to ignore her testimony about Barry’s berries, her credibility may be irreparably damaged and if that happens, the only person who has testified that Bonds knew he had taken steroids prior to his grand jury testimony may be discredited.  For now the judge is taking no action on the matter. If that doesn’t change, no harm, no foul for the prosecution.

The most interesting testimony of the day came from former Giants trainer and current Dodgers trainer Stan Conte. Conte is one of the most respected trainers in the game, but he was thrust into steroids-in-baseball fame when the Mitchell Report came out. There we learned how Brian Sabean was content to throw him under the bus when it came to Barry Bonds and Greg Anderson.

Specifically, in 2000, Conte went to Sabean to complain about known drug dealers like Greg Anderson hanging out in the locker room. Conte asked Sabean if it were OK to kick Greg Anderson out of the locker room. Sabean didn’t object. But then Conte, no idiot, asked Sabean if he’d have Conte’s back if Barry Bonds got angry about it and tried to have him fired. According to the Mitchell Report — and revisited in Conte’s testimony yesterday — Sabean told Conte that he was on his own if that happened. You don’t have to be genius to see that Sabean’s baloney in this regard set up Conte as a potential scapegoat in the event someone ever raised a ruckus about the Giants’ tolerance of Anderson, Bonds and steroids (“I told the trainer to do what was necessary. If he didn’t . . . “).  It certainly makes Conte a sympathetic figure and bolsters his integrity when it comes to steroids in baseball.

Beyond that, Conte’s testimony focused on his disapproval of steroids, Bonds’ unique training regimen and how, over time, he and Bonds had a falling out over Bonds’ training and rehab.  It seemed like the prosecution wanted to use this friction as a means of showing that Bonds was a rogue and to imply that Bonds had something to hide from his trainer. The defense, in contrast, seemed to be arguing that Conte’s personal tiff with Bonds makes him a biased witness. Indeed, the defense seems to be doing that with everyone.  Personally, it doesn’t sound like either side can claim the Conte testimony as a big win. It was factual and straightforward, but there was no mention of Conte being aware of Bonds’ steroids use, let alone Bonds admitting that he was aware of it, and thus I can’t see how the jury can use it to reach any conclusions about whether Bonds lied under oath.

Finally came a trio of ballplayers: Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and Marvin Bernard. All three of them testified to receiving steroids from Greg Anderson (though all also testified that they had been taking steroids before meeting Anderson too).  All of them testified that they more or less knew that what they were receiving was steroids or at least steroids-like substances that were designed to be undetectable performance enhancing drugs such as The Cream and the Clear.  None of them testified about Barry Bonds at all.

The point of the player testimony: to show the jury a pattern of ballplayers knowingly receiving steroids from Greg Anderson and hoping that they conclude that Barry Bonds had to have known too.  This could be effective if the ballplayers themselves came across as having a clear idea of what they were taking.  Based on secondhand accounts of the testimony this was hit-and-miss yesterday, with the Giambis and Bernard voicing varying degrees of certainty about it all, what the drugs were intended to do, and whether they felt the drugs actually, you know, worked.

It strikes me that the player testimony could provide corroborating and/or supporting evidence if the jury is inclined to believe that Bonds lied, but it’s hard to see how it provides anything close to a smoking gun.  And it’s a smoking gun that the prosecution has been unable to come up with so far.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.